Sho Onoda “Diamond” (Review)

Romanticism and drama, a unique take on waltz and consistent performances make the 7th volume of the “bi-color” series, Sho Onoda‘s diamond, one worth checking.

Updated intro to this series with some spoilers in the mix:

VAZZROCK is the newest 2.5D project by Tsukipro. The cast includes 12 characters split into 2 bands: Vazzy and Rock Down. Those 12 characters represent different precious stones. Besides this and in regards to the interactions between this series and others under Tsukipro, it is mentioned that VAZZROCK‘s members are on good terms (some even friends) with some members of SQ and ALIVE. VAZZROCKSQ and ALIVE all share the same dormitory. Vazzy and Rock Down‘s leaders were once part of the same group with SolidS‘ Shiki Takamura and QUELL‘s Shu Izumi.

Title: 小野田翔-diamond-
Label: Tsukipro/Movic
Release date: 31/08/2018
Genre: Rock

Tracklist:

1 - DRAMA「心のままに、音楽を」
2 - 月影Innocent
3 - ZERO (duet with Yoshiyaki Hasegawa)
4 - 月影Innocent -off vocal-
5 - ZERO -off vocal-

Track by track analysis:

2 – 月影Innocent

Tsukikage Innocent sets a melancholic tone to this release with its longing strings, dramatic piano melodies, heavy guitar licks and bass-driven sound, courtesy of the bass and drums. At its core, this instrumental seems like a rock take on a waltz. Waltz’s characteristical mmm-bop-bop melody can be heard – even if slightly – right in the intro, the piano still carries that Waltz touch throughout the song, being key in adding a romantic dimension to this song. The rest of the instrumental doesn’t necessarily follow a Waltz-like pattern, leaning more towards the common 4/4 rock beat and incorporating strings and chimes to give it a dramatic twist. The interplay between piano’s romantic sound and the strings’ drama make this instrumental one of the more intricate and rich so far in the bi-color series.

And, if the instrumental wasn’t unique enough, Yukitoshi Kikichi made sure there were still reasons for the listener to pay attention and get immersed in this song and his performance. His performance is overflowing with emotion, matching the instrumental’s romantic tone, all while showcasing his unique singing tone, a unique blend of higher toned vocals, nasalization and vibrato. A clash of emotions, a crafty take on waltz and a strong performance make this song the highlight on this release. 5/5

3 – ZERO

A melancholic piano melody and delicate strings almost tricks the listener into thinking this song is a ballad when, in fact, it’s a fast paced rock tune. A noticeable bass line, strings – an element that is starting to establish itself as a must for ROCK DOWN‘s songs -, melodic guitar licks, snare-y drums and other percussion elements, shape this instrumental into an exciting high-throttle rock song. The verses are well paced with a couple of tempo changes to make things interesting, the problem, however, lies with the chorus. The instrumental in chorus sounds too stiffing, too high pitched due to the mix of synths, strings and piano melodies all playing in a high key – making it uncomfortable to listen to even with high-definition headphones on – and there’s too many things happening at the same time and in completely different keys. ZERO‘s chorus had everything to be a highlight, especially after the intense build up to it, however a messy chorus makes the song rather difficult to listen to.

Even if the instrumental is far from being as good as envisioned, the vocals sort of make up for or, at least, try to make up for it. This match-up between Yukitoshi Kikuchi and Yoshiyaki Hasegawa was rather interesting. They have contrasting vocal colors that complement each other. Kikuchi leans towards a nasal, higher pitched performance whereas Hasegawa performs with a comfortable baritone that levels their overall performance. Even though both are far from being the best singers in the VAZZROCK franchise, they worked hard with their skills and managed to pull off an exciting performance that, unfortunately, wasn’t enough to save this song. 4/5

 

Final rating:

After 6 individual releases by Vazzy’s members, it’s time to welcome ROCK DOWN through its leader, Sho Onoda. As it is known, especially after the release of ROCK DOWN’s first unit CD, this band has a slightly different approach to their music, leaning more towards a dramatic rock sound with orchestral elements rather than a pure rock sound or dance-rock. diamond is, in its essence, a release that makes the best of dramatic melodies to attract the listener.

Waltz is at the core of Tsukikage Innocent, even if the song never fully embraces the music genre. However, the way the piano and strings were played always channeled that romanticism and drama that is found in classic waltzes. There’s something incredibly unique about this take on a waltz, the clash between romanticism and drama, executed to perfection to overwhelm the listener. This instrumental is unlike anything so far in this bi-color series. Easily the best song in this release.

ZERO has a messy arrangement and mixing. The instrumental in the chorus is stiffing, with no sense of dimension, and is confusing, having a lot happening in the background but with few things enriching this song or being truly interesting. The choice of higher keyed instruments in that section made it difficult to listen to. A little bit of simplicity in the chorus would have taken this song to greater heights. Other than that, the verses were enjoyable and the changes of tempo managed to make the verses exciting.

Yukitoshi Kikuchi is owner of a rather unique singing tone. He naturally performs in a higher key than anyone else in the VAZZROCK franchise. This alone poses a problem, especially when, allied to this, he has a deep nasal tone. As a result, Kikuchi‘s singing tone takes some listens get familiar with. Yoshiyaki Hasegawa made his first appearance in the bi-color series in the duet song, ZERO. He showcased control over his vocals even if, at times, he sounded a bit weak in some of his parts in comparison with Kikuchi, however it was nothing that really hindered the performance.

All in all, Sho Onoda’s diamond is an interesting release that has a strong opening tune in the waltz-rock hybrid, Tsukikage Innocent but fails miserably to impress with its duet song ZERO, quite possibly due to overproduction. Regardless, diamond is an entry worth checking out, especially when it features one of the most unique performances so far in the VAZZROCK franchise.

VAZZROCK” bi-color Series (7) Onoda Shou – diamond – is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

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